Whether time recording, route data transmission, load management, departure and arrival detection, capacity determination – mobile IT uses a wide variety of apps, from a simple messaging standard solution to a sophisticated service tool with order management and navigation. The solutions of the Circlon | group can be operated on handhelds, smartphones and tablets under Android, Apple iOS and Windows. The type (design) of an app depends primarily on its purpose – and of course on the budget that is available. It's worth taking a quick look at the basic types of apps – especially when developing cross-platform solutions for different versions of Android or iOS in order to keep total cost of ownership (TCO) low.
Native apps for complex tasks
For real purists, a native app is most likely to be their first choice. Some Circlon | group customers insist on this design. For good reason. It allows complex tasks to be solved very well, with the app using the hardware of the mobile device and thus all device functions – such as GPS or camera – to optimum effect. That's why it's unbeatable in terms of performance. So if you are looking to develop the most powerful apps, you will often work with a native source code, using the software development kits of the respective platform. But where there is light, there is also shade. For instance, the development of a native app is generally more time-consuming than other types of programming. And if the app is also meant to run on other platforms, its code has to be rewritten specially for these. That means extra work, which costs time and money.
The mobile website – simple and cheap
Sometimes a mobile website may suffice for solving certain tasks, especially when it comes to gathering and collecting information. A mobile website is created in HTML5 and runs on an internet browser, meaning that it is platform independent. However, this app, which is really just a responsive, mobile-optimised website, needs a reliable Internet connection, otherwise it is no fun to use and the app may not run smoothly.
In addition, a mobile website never has full access to the device hardware. Although this solution works platform-independently, it is important to check carefully whether it is optimised for the specific application. What are known as progressive web apps (PWA) promise improvements here. By way of example, they enable location discovery and provide offline capability.
Web apps – the interesting alternative
Web apps (HTML5 apps) are relatively easy to develop with an open source framework. Unlike the mobile website, they also work offline and can be developed more cost-effectively than native apps. With only one source code, this app caters to all platforms. Using plug-ins, additional functions, such as the scanning of a barcode, are easy to implement. Disadvantage: When it comes to handling and the user interface, you quickly notice that the app does not run as fast and smoothly as a native app. So, should you go back to the native code but invest more? The alternative could be hybrid apps.
Hybrid apps – cost-efficient, hardware-specific, platform-independent
Hybrid apps combine the benefits of native and HTML5 programming – they are written with native source codes and enhanced with HTML5 elements. They run on different platforms (cross-platform apps) and do not have to be rewritten for iOS, Android or Windows each time, which helps keep the development costs within limits. They are capable of working offline and are almost on a par with native apps in terms of performance. The Circlon | group has created a tool for integrated transport logistics with its multi-lingual hybrid app "Circlon Go", which conveniently provides detailed route data of consignments. Hybrid apps like "Circlon Go" are available in the App Store, respectively Google Play, from where they can be easily downloaded and installed.
For the development of hybrids, there are alternatives to HTML5, such as Xamarin. Apps created with Xamarin use platform-specific hardware acceleration and are compiled for native performance. Other app development platforms include AngularJS, Ionic and React. So which framework should you go for? That's the big question, with the developers at Circlon | group having mastered the whole spectrum and are therefore able to provide the right answer to the customer's requirements. But hybridisation also reaches its limits when everything has to be taken from the hardware, for example for GPS tracking with simultaneous display of item master data.
Which design should it be then?
As to which programming is best, besides the budget, this is ultimately decided by the user's particular requirements. The key questions are: what goals are pursued and what should the app be able to do in detail? For complex applications that access the device hardware, which must be stable and also capable of working offline and be highly user-friendly (keyword sensitivity or gesture control), there is probably no getting round a native app.
Nonetheless, Circlon | group experts check out all alternatives and make corresponding suggestions. Since the company knows all the relevant forms of programming, has gained a wealth of experience in numerous projects and covers all types of design with its solutions, the experts can advise the customer soundly before commencing the development of an app. Often, ready-to-use solutions or blocks exist that can be utilised to enable fast and cost-effective app development, also with low TCO in mind.
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